Aletta - E-Quality, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: A women’s archive and transgender resources: collecting and indexing at Aletta E-Quality

"We’d like to know from you how you define and index transgender resources and how you deal with dilemmas regarding visibility."

In this blog post, Aletta E-Quality (the Amsterdam based institute for Emancipation and Women's History) highlights some of the dilemmas the institute faces when it comes to the visibility of Trans resources. How do you think that archives should best embrace the 'T' in LGBTI? What about intersex? Comment and let Aletta know so that the discussion about this important issue can be started before the conference. 
Click 'read more' to read Aletta's blog piece

Aletta E-Quality, the Amsterdam based Institute for Emancipation and Women’s History (formerly the International Information Centre and Archives for the Women’s Movement), has a diverse and extensive collection of resources in the field of transgender studies and transgender histories. Mostly books, articles and periodicals, but also some photos, posters, an archive and a collection of web resources. To get an impression of the transgender resources at Aletta E-Quality check.http://www.aletta.nu/aletta/eng/zoek/head
In this blog I want to share some thoughts about transgender resources and how we can make these resources accessible.
Defining transgender
Terminology within the transgender community varies and has changed over time. Nowadays in The Netherlands the term transgender is used as “an umbrella for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth, including but not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers, androgynous people, gender queers, and gender non-conforming people” (National Center for Transgender Equality, 2009).
We also have to take in mind that long before the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld introduced the term ‘transvestite’ in 1910 “other cultures had developed their own terminologies to describe 'trans' people. From the Hijra of India, to the Fa'afafine of Polynesia, the ladyboys and the tomboys of Thailand, and the Takatāpui of New Zealand, there are a myriad of words used by trans people to describe themselves” ( Whittle, 2010). In this paper transgender is used as an umbrella term.
There is a huge increase in publications on transgender since the 1970s, as you can see in the collections of Aletta E-Quality and colleague-archives, such as IHLIA. It was the time of social movements like the second feminist wave and the gay rights movement, the foundation of women’s studies departments at universities and the foundation of the Dutch gender teams who started with the treatment of transsexuals.
Indexing transgender resources
Considering the growing amount of transgender resources we, at Aletta E-Quality, had to decide which titles we want to collect. Also the indexing of transgender resources was ánd still is a challenge. Since 1998 Aletta uses and maintains the Women’s Thesaurus as a tool for indexing materials. We started developing the Women’s Thesaurus because existing classification schemes, although they pretend to be neutral and inclusive, were not sufficient to show the diversity of women’s words and worlds (Drenthe and Van der Sommen, 1987). By adding keywords, such as trans sexuality, sexual ambivalence and transgender, and by making cross-references between different keywords Aletta tried to make the Women’s Thesaurus more inclusive and suitable for indexing transgender resources.
Like all of us we, at Aletta E-Quality, believe in the importance and power of an optimal access of resources about all kinds of minorities. Accessibility and visibility are vital when it comes to  getting and maintaining equal opportunities. So we try to index  publications about the broader field of LGBT issues as specific as possible, since the B and T aspects sometimes are less visible.
When indexing  transgender publications we aim to describe precisely who are in charge: transsexuals, cross dressers, people that don’t identify as man or woman, etc.?  Another challenge with respect to visibility is how to deal with transsexual individuals who are out and proud, but want to be ‘invisible’ as a transsexual after their sex reassignment surgery.  We encounter  people who (co)authored a transgender publication in the past and ask us now to remove their name from the database, because they don’t want to be found (by Google).
We’d like to know from you how you define and index transgender resources and how you deal with dilemmas regarding visibility.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Gé Meulmeester, information specialist at Aletta E-Quality


Drenthe, Gusta and Sommen, Maria van der (1987) Towards a uniform language retrieval system for information on the condition of women and women's studies in the Netherlands : Report on a preliminary investigation

National Center for Transgender Equality (2009) Transgender terminology

Whittle, Stephen (2010) A brief history of transgender issues

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